fire; danger; safety; emergency; action; plan; grief; loss; disaster; bushfires; bush; fires;
Bushfires happen quite often in Australia. Usually they are way out in the bush, a long way from towns. Some people live on farms or in the bush and their homes or sheds or animals can be burnt. Sometimes they can be close to towns and cities.
Wherever we live we can all be affected by bushfires:
- You and your family may have been caught up in a bushfire.
- You may live in an area where there are often bushfires.
- You and your family or friends may have lost things in a bushfire.
- All of us may see distressing pictures on TV or in news papers about bushfires, people losing their homes, animals and even human lives.
- Wind can carry smoke from bushfires for long distances. Smoke makes breathing difficult, especially for people who already have problems like asthma.
What if you have lost things in a bushfire?
If you and your family lost things in a bushfire then:
- You may feel sad to have lost things that were important to you.
- You may feel afraid when you think about what happened or what might have happened.
- You may feel scared about what will happen in the future, like where you will live, how you will manage to get back to a normal life.
- You may feel angry or get easily upset.
- You may feel like you don't want to eat.
- You may have bad dreams or nightmares.
- You may be afraid of the dark, smoke, loud noises.
- You may want to stay close to your parents or caregivers all the time.
- You may have difficulty putting the fire out of your mind.
- You may feel unwell, have tummy aches or headaches.
All of these reactions are normal and you need to talk about how you feel with someone who can listen well and help you to feel better.
How you can help your family
If you live in an area where there could be bushfires then your family probably already has a bushfire survival plan.
If you haven't you can help by making a bushfire survival plan - have a look at this page on the South Australian Country Fire Service web site:
http://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/prepare_for_bushfire.jsp Maybe you and your family could look at it together.
If you are travelling around Australia with your family during summer, there are guides on this site which would be useful. Maybe you could check them out for your family?
There are 3 ways in which you can help
1 Make sure that your home is as safe as it can be.
You can help by:
- Helping to keep an area of at least 20m around the house clear of plants, trees or anything else that would burn.
- Making sure that hoses are connected to taps at all times.
- Helping to block drain pipes and fill gutters with water on high fire risk days.
- Practising the Bushfire action plan with your family.
- Never lighting a fire outdoors if there is no adult around.
- Never light fires outside on fire ban days. You could look at the Bureau of Meteorology website to find out whether there are fire bans in your area.
- Reading our topic on Safety from fire.
2 The 'Go early' plan
The Country Fire Service (CFS) recommends strongly that people leave their homes when there is a danger of bush fires in your area. Many people have died when they have tried to defend their homes in a big bushfire - or when they leave too late.
Things can be replaced but people can't.
- You can help your family to decide what to do if you have to leave because of a bushfire near your home.
- Talk about what you would take.
- Talk about what you would do with pets.
- Talk about where you would go.
- Make a plan and practise it.
3 What if you were somewhere else?
Maybe you are at school or a friend's place when a bushfire starts.
You can help by:
- Staying where you are if it is safe.
- Letting your parents or caregivers know what is happening. Call them to let them know where you are and what is happening to keep you safe.
- Following the instructions of the adults who are around.
- Staying calm and helping little kids stay calm too.
You might be able to help by:
- Helping to clean up, if it's safe for you to do so.
- Helping younger brothers or sisters by talking with them and listening to them. Little kids find it hard to understand and may be asking the same questions over and over. Be patient and keep answering; they'll get through it in time.
- Understanding that your parents or caregivers have to make a lot of adult decisions about where to live, etc.
- Understanding that adults will be very upset too and that they will also need time to recover.
- Caring for each other.
If you know someone who has experienced a bush fire that has changed his or her life then you might:
- Be a good listener if he or she wants to talk about it, but if he or she does not want to talk about it, then talk about the things that you usually talk about so that they can still do 'normal' things.
- Share your toys, clothes, etc until he or she can get some more.
- Help them replace any schoolwork that has been lost.
- Ask if your class can do something like fundraise to help replace things which have been lost.
- Help them through the grieving process. It may be helpful for you and your friend to look through our topic on 'Grieving – working through loss', or the topic for younger children 'Grief (easy read)'.
It is important that you give yourself time to think about what has happened and to grieve for things that have been lost.
- Talk about how you are feeling with one or more of your trusted adults.
- Keep up with sports, school and all the familiar things in your life.
- Draw, paint or write about what happened and how you feel. It can help.
- Write thank you letters to people who have helped you.
- Make a list of things you will have lost to help your parents get things organised with insurance.
Dr Kim says
Looking at the pictures in the media can be scary enough. If you and your family live near a bushfire area then be sure you have a plan ready for any emergency and that you all know what to do to keep yourselves safe.
Bushfires can start from electrical storms, but are often caused by people being careless with machinery that makes sparks, or not putting out fires or cigarettes properly. A few people even start fires deliberately.
The Red Cross have a booklet that you can download called Emergencies happen - protect what matters most
Scared to death
House is ready
Flee from the fire
Ring 0 0 0
Look at this site to learn about dialling 000. Remember that you only do this in an emergency.
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.